Part 2: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV

The amount of available memory for each graphics core determines the detail levels Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV allows to be used. Rather than bypassing this constraint, we basically cranked settings for the 896MB per GPU available on the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 295. Note that, here, if you were using cards with 1GB per graphics processor, you could further raise Shadows to Very High and set view distance to 30%.

Even at the lowest resolution, the Radeon HD 4850, with only 512MB of memory, needed to be omitted from GTA IV testing.

I was totally new to the GTA series when I started work on this project. But having heard the voices of readers wanting to see this game added to the benchmark suite, I obliged. The first order of business was to play the game on various configurations and get accustomed to the expected performance and hardware requirements. We again use the game’s built-in benchmark and shoot for a target of 40 FPS. Some time spent playing on our tested platforms indicated that systems capable of reaching this target were at least playable, providing 30+ FPS during intensive game play, with just the occasional dip into the mid 20s. Whether in-game or running the benchmark, GTA IV doesn’t seem push graphics cards all that hard.

GTA IV is clearly the most CPU-limited game we have visited thus far, but scaling here isn’t nearly as extreme as seen in Part 1. Sure, the dual-core Phenom II X2 550BE does manage to reach the target with each graphics card, but look how much performance is gained with every additional active Phenom II core. A GeForce GTX 260 is plenty of GPU for this resolution, but do yourself a favor and opt for at least the triple-core Phenom II X3 720 BE if this is an important title. Nvidia’s GeForce cards lead the way, while the typically-impressive Radeon HD 4870 X2 totally fails to impress in this title.

The CPU bottleneck continues. Stick to the GeForce GTX 260 for these settings, and dump any extra cash into a quad-core processor.

While Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260 is all of the GPU we need once again, an interesting situation pops up at 1920x1200. The Radeon HD 4890/Phenom II X3 720 BE matches the performance of the GeForce GTX 260/Phenom II X4 955 BE, at a cheaper price.

At 2560x1600, the GeForce GTX 260 can no longer reach the target frame rate, while its bigger GeForce brothers easily take the top honors when paired with three or more processing cores. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 finally manages to surpass the HD 4890, but still doesn’t look too impressive. The Radeon HD 4890/Phenom II X2 550 BE combo manages to be the cheapest and most balanced minimum solution we can recommend at this resolution.

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  • Silvune
    I'd definitely be interested to see how the new Radeon cards would fit into these charts.
  • redkachina
    Looks like its still relevant for me to keep my Phenom 720, not much of a difference compared to 955..better spend more money on graphics..
  • bagpussroxx
    Confirms what i already knew about my Phenom II 550 and 4850 rig....

    My Cpu has ALOT more to give if i just upgraded the 4850, and thats just in dual core mode, my CPU will unlock to a Triple or Quad core, but the benefits of doing so with a 4850 are limited in most games.

    Think i'll wait and upgrade my 4850 before running my 550 as a quad.....may as well take the savings on heat and running costs whilst im so GPU limited.
  • Lewis57
    It would be interesting to see how the 5870 does compared. I'd be interested it building a Phenom II with a 5850 or 5870 if the funds are there.
  • bamj6
    I have a Q9550S but all the cards on there are better than my 9600 GT

    Thing is I want it to stay as a single slot as my mobo is my recently built matx.